The India Justice Report made public last week, ranking 18 large and mid-sized, and 7 small states according to their capacity to deliver justice, rated Gujarat’s subordinate courts the best when it comes to clearance of cases for the year 2016-17.
Gujarat’s subordinate courts seem to have seen the best performance when it comes to case clearance rate (CCR) where CCR is defined as the number of cases cleared in a year measured against the cases filed that year. For 2016-17, 129 cases were cleared per 100 cases filed, a rate that had improved by more than six percentage points from the five-year period average of FY13-17. The state’s performance appears to be surpassing the second-best performer Odisha by a significant margin, that saw 106 cases cleared per 100 cases filed, an improvement of little over four percentage points of case clearance rate seen over the period of FY13-17.
The subordinate court’s CCR performance in the state seems to be in sharp contrast with what is seen in its High Court, where approximately 98 cases were cleared per 100 cases filed, marking a deterioration in the CCR by nearly three percentage points when compared against the average CCR seen during the five year period of FY13-17.
CCR is a significant indicator of case pendency. As stated in the report, “One measure of change in the number of pending cases is the clearance rate. If a state disposes at least as many cases as it receives in a year, it is not adding to its pending workload.”
However, at the same time, it is important to note that cases pending in Gujarat’s subordinate courts for more than 5 years, as of August 23, 2018, bordered at 30% (27.2%), figuring in the top one-third percentile (ranked 5th) of the 18 large and mid-sized states with highest pendency. This implied for every 100 cases, nearly 27 cases were found to be pending for more than 5 years, in the state. As the report also states, “Gujarat, for instance, performed well in reducing the number of pending cases and vacancies. However, cases pending for 5-10 years and over 10 years cumulatively accounted for 27 per cent of the total number of cases pending.”
When it came to vacancies, in the five-year period from 2012-2013 to 2016-2017, states had done better in reducing judge vacancies at lower levels than high courts. However, Gujarat was one among the only two states (other being Rajasthan) that had managed to reduce vacancy at both the subordinate courts as well as high courts.
Despite the overall improvement in the vacancy scenario, Gujarat’s subordinate courts saw high vacancy of judges, nearly 35%, second only to Bihar that saw nearly 45% vacancy in its subordinate courts. Women judges comprise an abysmal share of total judges in subordinate courts (15.1%) in Gujarat, third only to Bihar and Jharkand, among the 18 larger and mid-sized states.
Data for ‘cases pending in subordinate courts for above 5 years’ was taken as of August 2018 and the data for ‘subordinate court judge vacancy’ as of 2016-17.
Police arm- weakest pillar in state
Based on the five-year data for 23 indicators across police, prisons, judiciary and legal aid, Gujarat does better overall, ranking third among the large and mid-sized states after West Bengal and Maharashtra as per the report.
Overall, in composite ranking across police, prisons, judiciary and legal aid, Gujarat ranks 8th among the total 18 large and mid-sized states. While the state ranks 6th when it comes to legal aid (scoring 5.30 out of 10, lagging by 1.28 points from the top-performer in this aspect - Kerala), putting it in the top one-third percentile, the state’s ranking is pulled down by the police system, (ranked 12, scoring 4.55 in a ten-point system) of the four factors that have been studied in this report.
Vacancy plagues all states and Gujarat is no different. The report that looks at vacancy for January 2017 saw that while the state meets its SC police officers’ quota, 61 per cent of OBC police officers’ quota remain vacant, putting the state among the bottom one-third performer in this aspect. Another 30 per cent of ST officers quota too was vacant. Police officers here include inspector, sub-inspector, assistant sub-inspector and deputy superintendent of police.
Overall, more than 30 per cent (31.5) of the constabulary force in the state is vacant, second only to Uttar Pradesh (53%) of the total 18 large and mid-sized states, for January 2017.
Infrastructure wise too, the state fared poorly with a single police station serving a population of 2,40,608 (highest) in an urban area and 69 square kilometre (second-highest, after Kerala where a police station serves an area of 71 sq km in an urban area), in an urban area. In both cases, data corresponded for January 2017 for the 18 large and mid-sized states.